I acquired Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking last summer, and misplaced it in a stack of comic books (they look nothing alike). I discovered it two weeks ago and have begun trying it out.
The writing itself is easy, and funny with interesting family anecdotes and comments on Indian and Western eating habits. Originally published in 1973, the book also holds interesting clues to a recent period different enough to surprise me- advice to always buy basmati rice if you see it, but save it for special occasions only; apparently there was a widespread shortage in the 70s. She also discusses her perspective on Indian restaurants in England, and Western perceptions of Indian food. This cookbook focusses more on cooking from the area in which she grew up, in Delhi, and she clearly specifies that we should not look for our Indian take away faves.
I made Chicken with tomato sauce and butter last night, and served it with plenty of Indian basmati rice. This was good, and worth making again. Despite M.J.'s injunction, it reminded me of one of my favourite Indian restaurant dishes, Butter Chicken. The spicing was a little different, and it didn't have quite so many tomatoes, but it was good.
One thing I'll do differently in the future, is to follow my own past experiences and put 'hard' spices, such as the cinnamon stick, cloves and peppercorns into the coffee grinder instead of the blender. My ice crushing blender just wasn't made for cinnamon sticks. Here's the recipe as printed in the book. I used 3 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces- not as authentic, but easier. Get your own copy to read the intro commentary on British chicken.
4 chicken legs
2 chicken breasts
2 medium sized onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped coarsely
a piece of fresh ginger, about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stick of cinnamon, 2 1/2 - 3 inches, broken up
seeds from 6 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 hot dried red pepper (or more, as and if desired), crumbled
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
8 medium sized tomatoes (tinned or fresh), peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp lightly salted butter
1. Remove skin from all chicken pieces. Divide legs into drumstick and thighs, and quarter the breasts. Pat dry and put aside.
2. In the container of an electric blender, combine the onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorms, bay leaves, red pepper and 3 Tbsp water. Blend until you have a smooth paste.
3. Heat the oil in a 10-12 inch casserole ttype pot over a high flame. When hot, put in the chicken pieces, 4 or 5 at a time, and brown them quickly (about a minute on each side). Remove with a slotted spoon. You will need to brown the chicken in several batches.
4. Turn heat to medium and pour in the paste from the blender. (Keep face averted). Stir and fry the paste for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot well as you do so. Now add the chopped tomatoes, 150mL water and the salt. Bring to the boil and cover. Turn heat to very low and simmer gently or 30 minutes, stirring every 6 to 7 minutes.
5. Add the chicken pieces to the pot, as well as any juices that may have collected. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes. Stir gently every 5 or 6 minutes to avoid sticking and burning. Be careful not to break the chicken pieces as you stir. Lift cover, turn up heat and burn off most of the liquid.
6. Cut the butter into 4 pats. Take the chicken off the heat. Drop in the pats of butter and stir them in gently. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
To serve: Place contents of pot in a warm dish and serve with Rice with Black-eyed Peas or naan. For vegetables, you could have Aubergine Bharta or Fresh Peas with Ginger and Green Coriander. You could, if you like, also serve Onions Pickled in Vinegar as they do at Moti Mahal Restuarant in Delhi.